Returning to running (safely!) after Covid

We runners are an impatient bunch. Tell us we can’t run for a chunk of time for whatever reason and our day loses its shine. It’s quite a different story if we’re choosing to not run, but force on us a week without running and it feels like forever – our souls are starved of joy. So, when we get sick, we desperately count the days before we can pull on our trainers and head out the door for our fix. 

We all know it’s never wise to run too soon after having flu, bronchitis, a chest infection etc. but many of us squeeze that timeframe tighter than we should and rush to get back. The past 20 months or so have added another contagion to be cautious about…  Covid-19 has not only limited the freedom of movement for active people the world over, it has also forced us to take recovery after being ill more seriously.

The medical world has shown that even though there is still more to learn about the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the body, it is clear that various organs, particularly the heart and lungs, remain under strain for some time after suffering the disease. Doctors recommend the return to normal activity levels should be cautious and gradual. 

I interviewed Dr Jason Suter, sports and exercise medicine specialist at Cape Sports Medicine in Cape Town, about the risks involved in resuming training too soon after having Covid. He put his thoughts in a nutshell:

“Physical fitness is one of the most important factors in lowering your risk for severe Covid. However, even fit athletes contract Covid and although rare, can suffer from complications associated with Covid infection. Myocarditis, for example, is inflammation of the heart and in an athlete the condition can be fatal. 

“By following a graded, guided protocol such as the one below, after a screening by your local sports physician you can safely return to your sport. Importantly, remember to look out for any mismatch between your heart rate and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) as it is often the first sign that you have not yet fully recovered.”

Click here for a simple five-level graded protocol (an easily printable PDF) to check where you are after suffering Covid, and to guide you safely back to training.

"The medical world has shown that even though there is still more to learn about the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the body, it is clear that various organs, particularly the heart and lungs, remain under strain for some time after suffering the disease"

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